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The 25 Healthiest Colleges in the U.S., 2012

The 25 Healthiest Colleges in the U.S., 2012
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Right around this time of year, high school seniors are making some tough decisions — in just a few short weeks, it'll be time to fill out those enrollment forms. Before picking out dorm décor to suit that new college’s colors, check out our list. We've found the 25 schools that create the best environment for leading a fit, healthy, and happy life. For more deets on how we ranked the schools, scroll to the bottom.

1. UCLA

We can only assume UCLA students never go inside. The school offers an impressive outdoor rec center (in addition to a traditional indoor one) with a team-building ropes course, pools, kayaking, and picnic areas. And if all that relaxing gets too strenuous, students will appreciate the health center (ranked number one by The Princeton Review), which offers acupuncture and massage therapy. There's also nutrition programming from the health center and the comprehensive FITWELL program with fitness classes, online educational resources, mind and body workshops, and even chair massages. Photo: Stephanie Diani/UCLA Newsroom

2. Stanford University

Some of the happiest students in the country are at Stanford, according to The Princeton Review, and we can see why. Students give the food here an A+ at College Prowler, and many dining options include late night dining 'til 2 am. Meanwhile, the gym is open until 1 am, so studying will never get in the way of a sweat session. Not to be outdone, the health center is also ranked in the top 25 by The Princeton Review. There are several student athletic groups, and the three-step BeWell program with resources for assessment, planning, and executing health and fitness changes. Photo: Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service

3. University of North Dakota

Students aiming to eat healthy will love UND's "guiding stars" rating system, which serves as the yellow brick road to healthy dining options. And for the price of $4,000 per year, students get unlimited access to the dining halls, which support local North Dakota farmers. (For the record, the national average for the cost of dining in 2009-2010 was $4,300, which doesn't necessarily include unlimited meals.) Recreation facilities are even more highly rated on College Prowler — as well they should be. The $20 million gym, opened in 2006, was a gift from the students, who voted to add a wellness student fee to pay for it. The gym offers a huge array of free fitness and health assessments and just about all the equipment we could ever want. Our favorite thing about UND, though, is its 7 Dimensions approach to wellness, which includes often-overlooked factors like emotional, environmental, and spiritual health. Photo: Chuck Kimmerle/University of North Dakota

4. Colby College

Tabata training and CrossFit classes at the fitness center are perfect for students who want to work out outside the box (pun intended), and the fitness complex also boasts a pool, indoor track, and ice rink. The health center has convenient hours, including weekends, and an emergency response team of volunteer EMTs that serve the campus community. Colby embraces sustainable dining, harvesting some food straight from its thriving campus garden. And dining services' hard work is rewarded with an A+ score on College Prowler. Photo: Jesse Goldman '12/Colby College

5. University of Georgia

UGA gets major points for its highly-rated food, plus the school offers nutrition consultations and smart-eating courses with a dietitian. The University of Georgia was also one of the only schools we found with 24-hour dining during the week, so even after a late-night study session students don't need to resort to fast food. The school's gym offers a Biggest Loser program (with prizes!) and several other wellness programs. The health center has dental, dermatology, and vision care, plus cooking classes and wellness workshops. Photo by Dot Paul

6. Bowdoin College

With dining services that include a small army of chefs and dieticians, it's no surprise students love Bowdoin's food. The dining halls serve fresh foods straight from the school's organic garden, and Bowdoin's food is ranked tops by both College Prowler and The Princeton Review. The school also boasts a 3-year-old fitness center with a selection of free classes comparable to the selection at a much larger university. The health center offers wellness classes, too, but the stellar programming doesn't end there. There's an outing club that goes on more than 100 active outings per year and a women's center with groups for students dealing with poor body image, eating disorders, and discrimination. Bowdoin even has — get this — a craft centerPhoto by Bob Handelman

7. University of Texas at Austin

 

Good health reigns supreme at UT-Austin. The health center is ranked number 4 by The Princeton Review, and more than 50 percent of students say it's high-quality and convenient on College Prowler. The center offers a lending library of books and DVDs, and the school also has a wellness network with a slew of events like mindfulness meditation, taekwondo, and community garden work time. Dining halls also make it easy to pick healthier choices thanks to "healthy suggestions" at every meal. Photo: Marsha Miller/The University of Texas at Austin

8. St. Olaf College

Students at College Prowler love the food at St. Olaf. And that's good news, since 90 percent of students live on campus and must have a dining plan. The dining hall is catered by Bon Appetit, which has pretty impressive standards for food selection, plus there's always one all-vegan station. Photo Courtesy of St. Olaf College

9. United States Military Academy, West Point

It comes as no surprise that physical fitness is a huge deal at this military academy. According to The Princeton Review, West Point's health care is also top-of-the-line (third in the country). Cadets have access to military medical care plus a network of local providers including dental care. But it's not all work and no play. Cadets can fulfill their competitive sports requirement with activities like skiing, martial arts, and marathon teams, among others. Photo Courtesy of The U.S. Military Academy at West Point

10. James Madison University

Students who can't stand an overcrowded Zumba session will love JMU's approach to fitness classes. Students must register online in advance to secure a spot in class, and the gym offers a huge range of class options (with video clips online for timid first-timers). The rec also offers a huge range of programs from outdoor adventures to nutrition classes. Photo Courtesy of James Madison University

11. Yale University

At Yale, each residential hall has dining services that are open continuously until 9 pm, making it easy to grab a meal on a busy day. And that meal is pretty likely to be delicious and healthy — Yale gets an A+ for food from College Prowler and is highly rated for healthy and organic foods (which may even come from the on-campus garden, lovingly tended by students). Meanwhile, Yale's health care plan gives students access to the full Yale Health network, including primary care physicians. Photo Courtesy of Yale University

12. University of Pittsburgh

Dining at Pitt is all about keeping it local. Dining Services hosts "meet the farmer" events in the dining hall, focuses on local and organic foods, and composts both pre- and post-consumer waste. They also utilize easy-to-understand nutrition icons at each meal station. There are several fitness facilities including 24-hour access fitness centers in each dorm. And administrators here take a holistic approach to health, as evidenced by the Healthy U Program. Our favorite aspect is the Stress Free Zone in the student union, which offers meditation clinics and a relaxing space to chill out. Photo Courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh

13. Lewis & Clark College

Students say the healthy, organic, and vegetarian options at Lewis & Clark are excellent, and dining services focuses on farm-to-fork and low-carbon initiatives. Required phys ed courses ensure students stay active, and with classes like hula dance, snowboarding, and scuba diving, we're ready to enroll, too. Gractivity, anyone? Photo Courtesy of Lewis and Clark College

14. Rice University

Students at Rice definitely won't go hungry. There are dining halls in every residential college that serve three meals per day, and students' meal plans are unlimited. And according to The Princeton Review, Rice University has the happiest students in the U.S.A. This may be thanks to its comprehensive wellbeing resource site or the many fitness events organized by the recreation department. Photo Courtesy of Rice University

15. UC Santa Barbara

Student health coverage at UC Santa Barbara is second to none. It includes dental, dermatology, and vision care — a trifecta that's notably absent at most schools' health centers. Nutrition facts for dining hall eats can be accessed at NetNutrition, which is iPhone-friendly. (No more waffling between the Lucky Charms and Special K!) And for those looking for a gym with a little more, how about a pottery studio? Yes, in the gym. Photo by Nell Campbell

16. Washington University in St. Louis

Healthy dining is a priority here, and the university bends over backward to make sure students are eating well. Residential colleges have full kitchens and the dining hall boasts Studio 40, a demo kitchen. No time between classes? Students can use "Webfood" to pre-order meals for pick-up from the dining halls in a pinch. Washington University also takes a unique approach to health; while visits with a doc require payment, health education opportunities are free of charge. Photo: Dan Donovan/WUSTL

17. University of Missouri

When it comes to college gyms, Mizzou's fitness facilities are world class — it did make our list of the 21 Most Innovative Gyms in the U.S., after all. From the "beach club" to the "jungle gym," all the equipment is top of the line. Students are also generally happy with the health center and dining, too (so we're assuming they actually leave the gym, though we’re not sure why…). Photo Courtesy of MizzouRec

18. Stephen F. Austin State University

Relaxation is the name of the game at Stephen F. Austin University. Students can take advantage of the stellar weather while lounging in the lazy river, or for the more active types, there's also a rock wall and sand volleyball courts. The school's dining website is also a good resource for nutrition information. Photo: Hardy Meredith/SFA Photographer

19. Tufts University

Freshmen at Tufts are required to have unlimited meals, so they're sure to experience the school's health-centric dining. Interestingly, students can actually order-in takeout and pay with their JumboCash (a student debit account) — we're still not sure if that counts as a pro or a con. A definite plus? Chiropractic treatment and massage therapy are available at the health center, which 71 percent of students say is high-quality and convenient. Photo: Emily Zilm/Tufts University

20. Virginia Tech

Healthy food is all-important at Virginia Tech. It ranks number 10 on College Prowler's list of healthiest dining options (as rated by students) and number 3 on The Princeton Review's list of best food. The fitness center offers a variety of programs including a running club and a six-week workout incentive programPhoto: Jim Stroup/Virginia Tech

21. Wheaton College

According to The Princeton Review, Wheaton has the best dorm food in the country. The fitness center also offers free classes including yoga and Pilates, which come at a premium at many schools. And for students who plan to get injured or ill, Wheaton's the place to do it. The school offers a self-care center with free over-the-counter meds, loan crutches, and heating pads. There's also shuttle service bringing students to off-campus appointments as well as on-campus massage therapy at the health center. Photo Courtesy of Wheaton College (IL)

22. Oberlin College

Oberlin's all about flexibility. Students who want to dodge Oberlin's $5,000-per-year meal plan can choose to participate in a co-op instead. Co-ops involve cooking, cleaning, and eating with a group of like-minded (like-stomached?) students. Either way, students say there are excellent vegetarian, vegan, healthy, and organic options. While health center walk-in hours are limited, there is a 24-hour nurse line. Photo Courtesy of Oberlin College

23. Scripps College

As part of the Claremont Consortium, this women's school shares many facilities with Claremont McKenna (next on our list). Students say Scripps has the best dining hall food, though. And women looking to sweat it out without any grunting men around will be grateful for women-only hours at the gym. Photo by Ian Bradshaw

24. Claremont McKenna College

Along with most of the other Claremont Consortium schools, Claremont McKenna earns an A+ for its food from College Prowler. Since 95 percent of students live on campus and campus residents must have a meal plan, the dining halls' health efforts have a huge audience. Recreation equipment is available in dorms, while there are also plenty of fun phys ed options. Photo Courtesy of Claremont McKenna

25. University of Scranton

This school wins for having the newest fitness center of any of the universities on our list — it opened in October 2011. Students on College Prowler also say good, healthy food is as inexpensive as fast food, encouraging healthy eating. Students rate the quality of food very highly. Photo Courtesy of University of Scranton

How we ranked: We went through a rigorous scoring process ranking these schools. We took nominations from our readers through social media and scoured the web for any mention of schools with exceptional food, fitness facilities, health services, health-related programming, and just plain old happy students. We then consulted student surveys from College Prowler and The Princeton Review to choose the 25 schools (from our original list of nearly 100) with the most satisfied students. From there, we scored each school individually on a 100-point scale that weighed food, fitness, health services, and programming equally. Our scale took into account everything from accessibility (i.e. price, hours, etc.) to innovativeness (turns out rock climbing walls are actually pretty common — who knew!?) and paid special attention to the quality of those services.  

Is there anyone you think we missed? What does your alma mater do to encourage healthy habits?

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